What is  drought?

A drought happens when there no rain for a long period of time. 

During drought plants don't grow properly.

During drought plants don't grow properly.

Lakes, streams and rivers dry up and plants and animals die. Because farm crops and animals die due to lack of water, there is less food for people to eat, and what food there is costs more.

If a drought lasts a long time, people may also die of starvation and the land may become desert.

Pastures die in a drought and farm animals starve. ©iStock

Pastures die in a drought and farm animals starve. ©iStock

In areas where trees have been cut down, hot winds blow away the dry topsoil.

This is called erosion.

Planting trees before a drought may help stop the soil being blown away in times of drought.

To prepare for a time of drought, people store water in dams and use the water from larger rivers to irrigate their crops. The water supply to homes and to industry is limited.

Drought is a risk to wildlife too.

Lakes and dams dry up during drought. Getty Images

Lakes and dams dry up during drought. Getty Images

Without rain, the plants that are food for land animals and birds is in short supply or dies out all together. When waterways dry up the wildlife have no drinking water. Fish and other animals that live in streams, rivers and dams will die when the waterways dry up.

Drought and frogs

Frogs need water in which to lay their eggs and as a place for tadpoles to live as they develop into frogs. In a drought many creeks, rivers, wetlands, dry up and some species may not breed during the driest months. 

Drought and reptiles

Reptiles can dig themselves into the ground under rocks, or hide under or inside logs, and go into a sleep-like state (it is called torpor) until the ground get moist again. Then they wake up and get active once more.

Bushfires in time of drought

In periods of drought there may be a greater risk of bushfires in forest and grasslands. The plant cover dries out and lightning strikes cause bushfires. Wildlife, farm animals and people are in danger from these fires. 

Conserving water

People are told to stop washing their cars, to stop watering the grass and take other water conservation steps such as taking shorter showers and making sure that there are no dripping taps in their houses.

El Nino (it means 'the boy' in Spanish)

Scientists think that when a warm ocean current which they call El Nino occurs in the Pacific Ocean, it has an effect on weather around the world. Scientists think that when it flows, once every three to eight years, the air pressure over the sea is reduced and winds that normally bring rain to land blow less often and a drought occur.


Watch a video about El Nino: what causes drought? 


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